Best way to cream butter for cookies?

JanicePDecember 12, 2011

I found the following article in the December issue of the Cooking Light magazine and it goes against everything I've done over the years with cookies - particularly the amount of time that butter should be creamed with the sugar:

"Baking holiday cookies can go from a labor of love to an exercise in frustration when your gingerbread men come out more bloated than a Macy's parade float. The problem is too much heat�but not at the baking stage, at the mixing stage: Your butter is too warm.

The solution: Keep your butter cool, right until baking. Butter starts to melt at 68�, and once that happens, its water-fat emulsion breaks and there's no getting it back. Cold, emulsified butter helps give baked goods structure by taking in air when mixed with sugar. For cookies, you want butter well below room temperature; between 50� and 65� is optimal. Cut the butter into chunks, and let it stand at room temperature to soften (nix the microwave idea entirely).

If the butter is still cold to the touch but spreadable, you can start creaming. Butter and sugar need only be mixed (or "creamed") for about 30 seconds�much longer and the butter warms up. Chill the dough for 20 to 30 minutes before you bake."

I usually make sure that the butter is creamed very well with the sugar because I want the sugar to dissolve. To cream sugar with butter for no more than 30 seconds goes against everything I have learned about making cookies!

Any opinions?

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I agree with you! I usually pull the butter out of the frig about a half hour to an hour before baking. I don't use the microwave. I cut the butter into teaspoon or small pieces to mix with the butter. Then add the sugar. I put it in the mixer and mix on Speed 2 (?) until I don't see chunks of butter anymore. Sometimes this doesn't take long (30 seconds); sometimes this can take a couple minutes.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2011 at 2:58PM
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OK - I switched to UTF-8 and I'm still just getting symbols and squigglies...

    Bookmark   December 12, 2011 at 3:31PM
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I totally agree to let it nowhere near a microwave. I agree that beating the daylights out of it with a mixer will warm the butter. But I've never had trouble with the way I do creaming so I see no reason to change. I'll bet if I stick a thermometer in the butter/sugar when I'm creaming it's going to be below 68ð. My kitchen is usually cooler when I'm baking.

Angelaid, have you tried a different browser? And have you checked that the encoding is staying set?

    Bookmark   December 12, 2011 at 5:18PM
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Hmmmm, Cynic, when I use UNF-8, I get black diamonds where the degree sign is in your and Janicep's posts.

With Western, I get upside-down question marks.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2011 at 5:23PM
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I take the temperature of my butter with an instant read thermometer to see if it's room temperature. Although there are no rules that can't be broken when it comes to baking, I was instructed room temperature butter was defined as 65 to 67 degrees. You can achieve that by letting it sit at room temperature for 30-minutes or so. In the time it takes you to get everything ready to make cookies, the butter should be close to "room temperature".

According to Betty Crocker's Cookie Book - "Perfectly softened butter should give gently to pressure (you should be able to leave a fingerprint and slight indentation on the stick) but it shouldn't be soft in appearance. Butter that is too soft or is partially melted results in dough that is too soft, causing cookies to spread too much."


    Bookmark   December 12, 2011 at 8:09PM
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I thought the idea was to cream the butter well in order to incorporate air. I wondered about this heating the butter up too much, but the recipes I've seen that give a time period for creaming butter usually suggest one to two minutes. It might be interesting to experiment with the shorter mixing time to see what happens.

When I bake in the summer, it's hard to keep the butter cool enough, but I don't bake much during the summer.


    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 10:28AM
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I get the same thing as jasdip whether I'm using Explorer or Firefox.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 12:15PM
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If you're happy with the way your cookies turn out with the method you've been using, why change it?

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 12:27PM
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Ruthanna, you are right....I always THOUGHT I was doing it correctly, but this article gave me pause. I have had trouble with some cookies that spread out more than I wanted them to even after I chilled the dough...I thought, after reading this article, that overbeating the butter might be the problem.

I thought this was the best place to bring up the issue given that there are so many experienced cooks here!

    Bookmark   December 13, 2011 at 8:54PM
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